How to Hold the Best Wedding Speeches and Toasts
Speeches and toasts are one of the most fun, profound, and heartfelt portions of any party, and of course, I’m speaking specifically about weddings. At the same time, speeches and toasts can be one of the most cringe-worthy, painfully awkward, and time-sucking portions. Don’t lie – you know exactly what I’m talking about. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying: a speech or toast is not a way to win an award or any sort of accolade. However, it is a rare opportunity for someone to share what their relationship to someone means, what they love about the newly married couple, why they’re excited to celebrate their marriage and give a blessing to the couple’s “next chapter” in life. The next time a speech like this might be made is during a eulogy, which is a completely different event.
Wedding speeches and toasts might be the most daunting things to write and deliver, but they are some of our favourite moments of the entire wedding day! Aside from the couple’s vows at the ceremony, the speeches are what everyone wants to hear. They give everyone a unique perspective on the couple, they make us laugh, they make us cry, and they fill us with a sense of community with the entire room. So, in an effort to take some of the pressure off your shoulders, here are some tried-and-true tips for writing a killer wedding speech and toast, along with some video examples to show you how it’s done!
Now, before I go too much further into this topic, I want to share with you that I actually would classify toasts and speeches as two different things. A wedding speech is a story, a personal reflection, or even an anecdote. A wedding toast is the actual blessing where guests are asked to raise their glasses in celebration of the honoured couple.
ULTIMATE TIPS TO GIVING WEDDING SPEECHES
Now, if you’re someone giving a speech in the next few weeks (or months!), I wanted to give you some tips for writing a killer, or someone said to me recently “flame,” speech. I think I’m too old to say that haha. These tips might feel very “duh” to you, but maybe not. So let’s dive on in.
KEEP IT SHORT, SWEET, AND TO THE POINT
If you think about it, if you have four people giving speeches and they take 5 minutes a piece, that’s 20 minutes give or take. Twenty minutes in an event is a lot of time. Now, if you had people that wanted to give long speeches, you could sprinkle them throughout dinner, especially if you’re having a plated meal or a dinner service where you have different courses. Or maybe you have a toast during cocktail hour, then something at the beginning of dinner, then towards the end of dinner. This is a way to ensure your guests are always doing something, and there isn’t a hard stop to everything. Long speeches can drag on and on, and you can really lose your audience. That’s not what you want. Granted, you are giving a speech for the couple, not for the audience; however, it is something to consider. I’m sure you’ve been to plenty of parties or weddings where someone’s speech made you antsy.
MAKE IT FUN, TELL A STORY OR AN ANECDOTE
A wedding is a celebration, it is a party. You are celebrating the marriage of two people you love, and that love each other fully. Let’s talk about the good times or something sentimental. Maybe it is something that only you two know about each other, and you’re inviting everyone in to get a glimpse of what your relationship means. Keep it fun; you can totally share some jokes. Tell a story! I think everyone loves a story, and that’s part of human nature. We can relate to a story or even picture ourselves when things are told in a story format. It also draws a clear line from point to point.
Oh, please also avoid locker room talk. It makes people uncomfortable. It typically isn’t funny. You don’t know your audience.
DON’T MAKE IT A BIG PRODUCTION
You don’t need a PowerPoint. You don’t need the bells and whistles. I find that the best speeches are short, sweet, and heartfelt. When people speak from the heart, it is powerful. I will say that I recently watched a video on YouTube where a groom gave a speech, rather wrote/sang a speech, at his wedding, and it was 14 minutes long. It was super sweet, and it was captivating. It was a huge production, though. Sidebar note – if you are going to do a song or something, it was super awesome to get a videographer to capture this sweet moment.
BE CHILL & BE YOU
This isn’t a competition. It isn’t about winning an award. It is truly being yourself and letting love pour out of your heart. No one is grading you, and if you are someone that does get nervous..definitely keep it short and sweet. That’s okay. Don’t try to use the vernacular language you don’t normally use. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not. Be the most real authentic you can be. That’s why your friend or your sister loves you in the first place. You’re not trying to win people over, but you are trying to express love, joy, and fun.
DON’T BRING UP EXES
Don’t talk about former partners or boyfriends or girlfriends. Keep that somewhere else. It can be really awkward or honestly, unwanted. We’re not worried about the past. We are concerned with the here and now.
HOW TO WRITE A WEDDING SPEECH AND TOAST
The hardest part of writing a speech is knowing where to start. If you’re drawing a blank or having a hard time narrowing down the stories you want to tell, start by making a list of your favourite qualities about the bride or groom. If they’re the funniest person you know, centre your speech around his or her sense of humour and pepper in stories of funny experiences you’ve had together. Chances are there are so many amazing qualities about the bride and groom, so making a list of your top 3 favourites will help you craft a focused speech about them.
When you’re ready to actually start writing, use the following general outline to help create a great speech from beginning to end.
Start by introducing yourself.
Tell everyone your name and a brief explanation of how and when you met the bride or groom, or how you’re related to the bride or groom. Everyone may or may not know who you are, so a little context will go a long way.
Tell a relevant story.
Go back to the list you created before you started writing and choose a story that reflects the qualities you love most about the bride or groom. This should be something that’s relatable, endearing, and appropriate. Make sure you have a point to the story so that you can seamlessly tie it into your speech at the end.
Reminisce about the day you met their partner.
Everyone in that room will likely have seen different pieces of the couple’s love story, so tell their story from your perspective. Talk about the day you met their significant other for the first time and the moment you realized this was the person they were going to marry.
Talk about what you love about their partner.
Although your main responsibility is to talk about either the bride or the groom, every speech should ultimately be about both of them. Tell their partner why they are the best choice for your best friend and what qualities you love most about them.
Talk about your hopes for their future as a couple.
If you’re married, this is where you insert your best piece(s) of advice for a healthy marriage. If you’re not married, wish them a long, happy, and healthy life together. Make your wishes and/or your advice personal to their relationship and end on a positive, optimistic, and heartfelt vision of their future.
End with a toast.
Ending a speech can be just as challenging as starting it, which is why we recommend ending with a toast. Ask everyone to raise their glass and toast to the wonderful couple — and, in your mind, to the killer speech you just gave!
Wedding Toast Template
Okay, first things first: The easiest way to give the best wedding speech of all time is to get your thoughts in order and establish a nice flow. Here are some of the key features your toast should include.
- Identify yourself. Chances are there are a few people in attendance that have no idea who you are. Take a second to briefly introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the couple. Consider who might be speaking before you and if they will refer you, to better plan how your own intro will sound following them.
- Thank the hosts. Let’s not forget who actually made it possible (aka footed the bill) for this whole shindig in the first place. Your first thoughts should be an expression of gratitude to whoever is hosting this event, usually one or both sets of parents, or more modernly, the newlyweds themselves. An acknowledgment of all the guests in attendance—or your audience—can go a long way, as well.
- Congratulate the newlyweds. This is the whole reason why you’re here, so don’t let the seemingly obvious slip your mind. Make sure to applaud the union of the couple and provide a few words and well wishes for their future.
- Pepper in personal stories. Your value as a toast-maker is your close relationship with the newlyweds, and first-hand experiences with them either solo or as a unit. Share some of those stories with the rest of their family and friends to bring their bond to life. Ideally, add an anecdote about the point in their relationship when they knew they had found their person. If you are closer with one of them or have had limited interactions with them as a couple, take this opportunity to share some of your favourite characteristics about your BFF for the guests, or newly-minted in-laws, that may not know them so well.
Wedding Toast Tips
Once you’ve found your personal rhythm, follow some of these tips to ensure you nail the delivery of your wedding toast.
- Speak to both halves of the couple. Even if you know one much better than the other, it’s important to remember that you are celebrating their relationship together. Not your relationship with your best friend. If you only talk about one entity, you’ll be alienating at least half of the guests in attendance who may only know their counterpart.
- Keep personal stories in good taste. Keep in mind who your audience is. It is usually comprised of multiple generations of your BFF’s close family, friends, and even work colleagues. Don’t tell any stories that may come across as inappropriate or that grandma might not want to hear. Similarly, your friend’s boss really doesn’t need to know any details about how the bachelor party went down.
- Don’t mention exes. Similar to the previous statement, remember who is listening to your toast. Even if you think talking about how bad your buddy’s ex was would flatter their new spouse, it’s better to refrain from any negative statements altogether. Keep your tone light and positive, and always bring it back to the newlyweds and the present moment.
- Be yourself. Stay true to your own personality and don’t try to put on a show for the crowd. If you’re normally the sentimental friend, let your words reflect that side of you instead of trying to come up with an open mic set. Your best friends will definitely be able to tell that you’re not being genuine, and even the crowd can usually pick up on something being amiss.
- Time it. Great toasts are usually around five minutes long—enough time to share a few sweet memories or sentiments, but not so long that guests lose interest. Rehearse your speech several times before the big day to make sure you’ve got the time down, and also to memorize the key points you want to make. Practice your toast out loud, instead of running through the words in your head. This can make a big difference in timing and allows you to hear any parts that might sound off and need revision.
- Be mindful of body language. A great speech isn’t just a witty compilation of words, it’s also about the delivery. Make sure you’re standing tall—never, ever remain seated—and exuding confidence, in a location where everyone can see you (otherwise they will tune you out). Don’t cross your arms or keep your hands in your pockets, as this comes across as distant, and make sure to keep the mic at mouth level so everyone can hear you. Don’t forget eye contact.
- Don’t forget to smile! This should go without saying, but there are times when those public-speaking jitters get the better of you and that lighthearted speech ends up being delivered with a painful grimace. Remember: You’re talking about a couple that you know and love and have probably shared a ton of laughs with. Make sure that your face reflects the love in your heart with a great, big grin. If you feel your nerves getting the better of you, look at your BFF—aka the subject of your toast—while you recite your speech and forget about the crowd.
- Keep drinks to a minimum. A glass of bubbly before giving a toast can do wonders to take the edge off and loosen you up a bit. But try to stick to one glass, and remember this throughout the day (hello, pre-ceremony shots and getting-ready drinks), too much alcohol can turn your carefully crafted sentiments into a big, slurred mess.